In 2002, the United Nations General Assembly declared the 23rd of June International Public Service Day “to highlight the contribution of public service in the development process”. The Covid-19 pandemic has illustrated, more than ever, the overwhelming importance of public services and the devastating consequences of under-funding and privatising public services.
The workers who deliver public services: healthcare workers, child, disability and elderly care workers, workers who make sure we have access to energy, to water and sanitation, emergency service workers, teachers and workers supporting public education, waste sector workers and workers who keep local, provincial and federal government services and administration working, are calling on governments to mark Public Service Day with a commitment to Covid Recovery Plans that deliver a new era of public services for all.
Governments are now seeking to stimulate economic activity. They can and must take the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy for future generations and facilitate the largest delivery of public goods in a lifetime.
Covid-19 has confirmed that well-resourced public health systems are the best defence against any public health crisis. Similarly, well-resourced public services are the best defence against economic and social crises. Countries that have invested in quality public services will weather this crisis, and any future crisis, far better than those who have embraced the corrosive ideology of neoliberalism.
Many governments are now lifting restrictions and seeking to stimulate economic activity. They can and must take the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy for future generations and facilitate the largest delivery of public goods in a lifetime.
Covid Recovery Plans must reorganise our societies around the capacity to care for all people and the environments we depend on, and to eliminate gender, wealth and social inequalities. Recoveries following previous crises - like the Great Depression and the Second World War - demonstrate that with political will, it is possible to secure a vast array of new public goods and services.
We can recover and inoculate ourselves against future crisis by building new public health infrastructure, health training and research, new universities, new public broadcasters and data systems, new public clean, renewable energy, new public spaces and guaranteed universal social protection.
What we cannot afford is to go back to the broken 'business as usual'. We cannot accept the enticing discourse that is emerging in global circles, where corporates are not only promising a prosperous future for all - after having been bailed out by governments during the emergency - but also demanding even more power to define the rules of the new order.
This is the message that our General Secretary, Rosa Pavanelli, will address to the UN Secretary-General António Guterres and WHO Director Tedros Ghebreyesus on Public Services Day at a high-level event organised by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) in which she is taking part.
We know that a healthy and equitable recovery will not be possible if governments adhere to neoliberal economic policies. Previous economic crises have demonstrated that countries who follow the policy advice of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Regional Development Banks will be forced to impose austerity, public sector wage cuts and to privatise public services, including health services. The result is always greater inequality, reduced wages for all workers and inadequate public services.
That’s why PSI and ActionAid have demanded that IMF policy advice on wage bills and wider macroeconomic policies do not continue to constrain vital investment in public services.
And it is why we have joined with the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) to reminding global policy making and financial institutions (link to letter) on Public Service Day that only with strong local public services can we guarantee a safe world.
Therefore, on this Public Service Day, the workers who deliver public services call on governments to:
massively boost public financing of public services post-Covid.
remove public sector wage bill containment policies at national and international levels so that countries can employ more nurses, doctors, care workers and other essential public workers.
transform tax systems at national and international levels so that multinational corporations and the rich pay their fair share of taxes
cancel debt servicing to the International Monetary Fund and Regional Development Banks so that countries can invest now!
Here are some excerpts from Rosa's address to the UN Secretary General, WHO Executive Director and other global leaders at today's UN #PublicServices Day Event.